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Blizzard season-in-review a mixed bag of good and bad

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After a hard fought regular season and a competitive playoff series against the Winkler Flyers, the OCN Blizzard hockey season came to a quick end during a game six overtime loss on the road in Winkler. Now over, the Opasquia Times caught up with the OCN Blizzard head coach Doug Hedley and talked to him on what his thoughts were on the season that was.
By the end of the regular season OCN was fourth in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) standings, winning 32 games, losing 20, with five overtime losses and three losses in shootouts, good for 72 points overall. That placed OCN two points ahead of Winkler in fifth and 10 points behind the Portage Terriers who were in third place.
Hedley did allude to some off-ice troubles in the first part of the season, but for the most part he thought the team did alright save for a couple of aspects they could have approved on.
“It was kind of a three-part season, I think we were very good at the start, we had some minor adjustments in our dressing room in about November which kind of took a step back. In early January we tried to bring it back together, we were good for a while in February. The last part of the season we were good in February at times.” said Doug Hedley, Head Coach and General Manager of the OCN Blizzard. “I think the thing that caught up to us was the lack of discipline, that ended up costing us our season. Basically that’s how we lost and just figuring out how to buy in, those are two things we probably struggled with; a lot of the times of the year it was just figuring out how to be a teammate and knowing when to skate away.”
In the playoff season that followed OCN was pitted against Winkler in what became a six game series in which Winkler came out on top, but it wasn’t without a concerted effort as four of those games went into overtime, three of which were double overtime games.
“I don’t know how you would one-word phrase it but maybe frustrating. I think the team had some real good potential, great size, good speed, we just lacked a little bit of unity at times in the season and a little bit of cohesion, but if you look at the six-game series (playoffs), four games in overtime, you can’t say we didn’t leave the effort on the ice,” said Hedley.
OCN did try to bolster the team by bring in some new players, however it was met with mixed results,
“We got better, we brought in some very good players but like I said it did affect our route to a certain extent. Let’s face it anytime you bring somebody in from the outside, there’s going to be an adjustment period and depending on how long that adjustment takes is dependent on the success you’re going to have,” Hedley explained.
Against certain teams OCN did well. Other teams the Blizzard were well-matched, including Winkler specifically.
“We beat Steinbach once. You go down the season series with Virden it was even, we beat Selkirk more than we lost, our season series with the (Winnipeg) Blues was pretty even, we beat Winkler four out of six, lost a couple in overtime, but every game was close it was basically the way the playoff series went,” he said.
All-in-all there were definitely some aspects to the season and the team that Hedley thought they could have done a better job on.
“There was a lot of things off-ice or on-ice; there were just things that were frustrating. We think we might not have handled adversity as good as we should have in the second half of the season; it’s something we definitely have to work at,” said Hedley.
Looking ahead, OCN will definitely need to bring some new blood on board as there are nine players aging out of the OCN Blizzard fold, including forwards Jesse Roach, Brayden Dale, Anthony Keeper, Brady Valiquette and Lantz Hiebert, defenceman Tavis Roch, Matthew Greening and Daylon Campbell and goaltender Emilien Boily.
Hedley remains optimistic though looking ahead, as there are plenty of players to bring on board and to rebuild around.
“If you look at our roster we have 24 players, we lose nine but actually roster-wise we only lose four or five. To fill in five spots we can fill that easily in our draft picks. I’m not saying it’ll be easy to replace those guys but at the same time we have 15 back, anytime you have a dozen or 15 players back in your roster you have a good chance to just regrow,” he explained.
The replacements are mostly going to be on the forward ranks as well as a new goalie to replace Boily and Hedley is confident on the existing back-end.
“There’s some great young talent that’s ready to come in,” he said, adding “I think it’s exciting, we could use some offense up front, but our backend is pretty well intact.”
Hedley also added that the OCN Blizzard are running an open-identification camp for 2002 and older-born players at the Keystone Centre down in Brandon from April 27 to 29. If you want more information about it, details can be found on the OCN Blizzard website at ocnblizzard.com.

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Trevor Wright
REPORTER
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